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Guadeloupe, Marie-Galante

Uncommon Attraction: The Rhum Distilleries of Marie-Galante

Uncommon Attraction: The Rhum Distilleries of Marie-Galante
rayced via flickr

The wide varieties of rums and the historic distilleries where they’ve been produced for centuries provide as good a pair of reasons to visit the Caribbean as any. Devotees of the noble spirit regularly make pilgrimages to The Birthplace of Rum (Barbados), The Rum Capital of the World (Martinique), Puerto Rico, St. Croix, etc. to revel in the heritage and rich tradition of the region’s most enduring industry.

All of these sun-kissed shores have much to offer anyone who appreciates the rum-maker’s art, but arguably none are more uncommon than the sandy ones pictured above.

This is Marie-Galante. Never heard of it? No worries. I was born and raised a few islands up the island chain and I never knew much about it ’til a few years ago. Even with the little I did learn initially, I never would’ve guessed that they produce any rum here, much less three different brands!

Before we get into the rum, (actually, it’s rhum here), let’s get to know a bit about this off-the-beaten-path paradise…

Rhum Bellevue 1821/European Gwada via Flickr

Marie-Galante is small – just 61 square miles – and seriously round and flat. So seriously round and flat, in fact, that its nickname is “la grande galette” or the big pancake.

The island is part of the archipelago that is Guadeloupe, just 45 minutes by boat and 15 minutes by plane from Pointe-à-Pitre, so its residents are all French citizens. Only about 12,000 people live here, carrying on a lifestyle that’s as close to the Caribbean of 30+ years ago as can be found anywhere.

This would seem a good point to stop and recap the numbers: 61 square miles, 12,000 people and three separate rum distilleries… Whereas it was common back in the day for just about every Caribbean island to boast multiple distilleries, these days most islands count themselves lucky to have just one rum-producer still in business.

Clearly the folks in Marie-Galante are doing something right when it comes to making fine rhum, but guess what? I haven’t come across any of their fine blends in all my travels throughout the French Caribbean, so sadly, I don’t know.

One guy who does, though, is our old friend Ed Hamilton from the Ministry of Rum. According to him, the thing that sets the fine rhums of Marie-Galante apart from the rest is that they’re bottled at 59% alcohol by volume. Compared to the 40-50% ABV of most other rhums, these bad boys pack a hefty punch.

If you’ve ever tried these fine rhums, or visited Marie-Galante, leave a comment below and tell us what we can expect if/when we ever get to visit this truly uncommon destination…

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  • Gabrielle

    Marie Galante is one of my all time favorite places!  A friend and I spent 5 weeks in Gwada last year – some of it (not enough!) on MG.  We visited all 3 distilleries during our many lazy days tooling around this stunning island – the beaches are mind blowing, and, I know I’ll regret saying this:  THERE’S NO ONE THERE!  Seriously, it’s empty.  You mentioned 61 sq miles and 12K people – compare that to St. Martin (the whole island), c.33 miles and over 82K!

    • uncommoncarib

      Great info, Gabrielle! Now we just need to figure out how to spend 5 weeks there ourselves!

  • European Gwada

    MG is a beautiful place to go and to spend sometime. Beaches are amazing, people are so friendly and moreover their “rhums” are amazing, either you like it white “rhum blanc” at 59% alcohol by volume or amber/old “rhum vieux” at 50% alcohol by volume.
    My favorite place there is “Plage de l’Anse Canot” … Look for pics over the net and you’ll find why.
    Definetly Marie-Galante is a place to visit!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=822949114 Pelle Braendgaard

    I’m the one who was talking about these rhums with you at the Mt Gay event a month or two ago. I love the Pere Labatt, which in my book is the best rhum for Ti Punch. I haven’t tried any of the Rhum Vieux yet. Must make a pilgrimage to Guadeloupe soon.

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  • http://www.carib-gourmet.com/ Vanessa Bolosier

    Marie Galante is the birth place of my mum. Growing up I used to hate going ther for the summer holidys. it was way too hot, way too quiet. As an adult I appreciate the charm of it. You may still be able to see cane planters moving nonchalantly on top of their ox pulling chariot, transporting cane. Just for that sight, it’s worth going. The rum is amazing. my favourite is Bielle. Their aged is amazing and they make a coconut liqueur all the ladies die for. But that’s not all. We lived in Gosier and every year my mother use to have a “gateau pistache” made and shipped for her birthday. I’ve never tasted anything like this and I believe it’s almost impossible to get your hands on it now. They also have “sirop batterie” an equivalent to trickle syrup but as you can imagine, not the same world. They have a cake calle d”caca boeuf” again, an experience on its own. I recommend the Festival Terre de Blues for an opportunity to visit it (it get very busy though) so I’d say go when it’s quiet, live with the locals have the flagship dish called “bébélé” and visit plage de l’anse canot as previously mentionned. A dream holiday for those yearning for complete civilisation disconnection.

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